Flashback Episode — When Jesus Was Too Late: Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

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In our last episode, we focused in on the miracle where a woman pushed her way through a crowd just to touch the edge of Jesus’ garment. However, that miracle is part of a much bigger miracle, because when that miracle happened, Jesus was on His way to help a local synagogue leader.

Let’s read about what happened from Mark’s gospel, chapter 5, using the New Living Translation of the Bible. Starting in verse 21, Mark tells us that:

21 Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

24 Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him.

It is at this point in the event where we find the miracle we focused on in the last episode. While Jesus was headed to help Jairus, the woman from our last episode saw an opportunity to be healed without being noticed. However, Jesus did notice and He stopped everything and everyone in order to bring this woman’s story into the spotlight.

We don’t know how long this interruption lasted, but when we come back to Jairus’ portion of this event, we discover that it may now be too late. Continuing in verse 35, Mark tells us that:

35 While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

37 Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. 39 He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

40 The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. 41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. 43 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.

In this passage and this event, several things stand out in my mind. The first one is that Jairus might not have heard or been certain if Jesus could raise someone from the dead. Prior to this, Jesus had raised a widow’s boy who was being carried out of town to be buried, but it is possible that this event had been glorified, glamorized, or simply shared so often that people weren’t fully sure what about it was truth verses exaggeration as the story spread.

We don’t know if the girl would have died before Jesus could have arrived if Jesus hadn’t stopped to draw attention onto the woman, but the implication I see when reading between the lines is that Jesus likely could have made it.

Because of this, we might end up feeling a little like Jairus did when receiving the news that his daughter was dead. At that moment, Jairus likely felt as though Jesus was too distracted to help him personally. At times in our own lives, we might feel as though God is too busy helping other people to help us personally.

However, while thinking this way is a temptation for us, nothing could be further from the truth. If we can push back from the situation where God appears to be silent, even if just for a moment or two, we might discover that if Jesus had arrived in time, both Jairus and everyone present would have missed experiencing another resurrection miracle. In a similar way, if God was always quick about answering some of our requests, we might never realize how much God wanted for us.

But this also leads us to an interesting detail present in this miracle, and some of the other ones where people are raised. In this miracle, Jesus refers to the child as sleeping, even if everyone present considers her dead. I cannot escape seeing the irony that if someone were to describe death as being like sleep in today’s culture, they would be laughed at by both major crowds of people. One crowd firmly believes that death is the end, while the other crowd things that death is a quick transition into eternal life in heaven or hell – though most people in this crowd focus on the heaven part.

It is likely for this reason that Jesus stopped the crowd from following Him after learning that the girl had died, and it is also the reason that He kicked everyone else out of the house when going in to see the girl. In the case of the crowd, there was likely enough faith and expectation to see a miracle that Jairus would not have needed to have faith personally. In contrast, those present at the house had lost all hope and their belief in the child being dead outweighed the faith in Jesus’ resurrecting ability.

In some ways, by describing death as a sleep, Jesus points us to the idea that it is simply a pause on consciousness. We can easily understand sleep as being a time of rest between two periods when we are awake and conscious, and understanding death as being simply a deeper sleep that only God can wake us up from is a peaceful way of describing death. By describing death as a sleep, Jesus aims to strengthen Jairus’ faith in the resurrection, and He aims to give us comfort in His resurrecting ability.

According to Jesus, when we face the sleep known as death, we will be resting until the time God wakes us up. In the case of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus wakes her up minutes after her last breath, and in our case, Jesus will wake us up when He returns with a shout.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and place your hope, faith, trust, and belief in Him. If you are fearful about death, take Jesus’ advice in this passage and think of death as a deep sleep. Jesus has fully shown that He is capable of waking people from this sleep, and because of this, we can be assured that when we have fallen into the sleep called death, that Jesus is fully capable of waking us up when the time is right.

As always, and especially since this is a very controversial topic, I challenge you to pray and study the Bible for yourself to discover what it teaches. If you want a balanced view on the subject, find two or three sources from each perspective and choose for yourself which one matches the Bible the best. As always, use the Bible as your guide, and focus on accepting the Bible for what it teaches and don’t filter the Bible through any of culture’s theories or ideas.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or wander away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 21: While being distracted by another miracle, the girl Jesus was on His way to heal dies. Discover what happened and how Jesus uses this tragedy to teach us some amazing things about God.

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